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BNN summary of the week: oligarchs in politics, people’s elected president, and Baltic growth

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Business; Decline; Change; Growth; and Opinion.

CHANGE: Legal Affairs Committee supports open election of state president

On Monday, 29 November, the majority of members of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported the initiative proposing open election of the state president by members of the parliament.

Members of To Latvia from the Heart and the Union of Greens and Farmers voted against this initiative.

This makes it one of the possible proposals for amendments to the Constitution to be discussed by a responsible work group. The committee decided to form such a work group to discuss amendments to the Constitution and study the possibilities of gaining the majority of votes in the Saeima.

The work group will include delegated representatives from all factions. It will have to provide its conclusions before the middle of March.

As it is known, Latvian politicians have different opinions about the possibility of electing the state president through an open vote.

Full article here

FIGHT: healthcare funding regulations will not motivate people to pay social tax

Regulations included in the healthcare funding legislative draft will not motivate residents to pay taxes, said representative of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ingrīda Circene in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

She believes a good idea is ruined by a piece of regulation that will make residents pay fees equal to 1% of minimal monthly wages in exchange for full basket of medical services.

As an example, she mentions that statistical data show that the hourly rate of a concrete mixer is EUR 7. To receive a full basket of medical services, a concrete mixes has to work an average of 33 minutes a month.

Circene believes that under a fair tax system, all residents able to work would have to pay social tax from minimal wage. Only under such conditions will it be possible for residents to receive all services included in the medical services basket.

On Thursday, 30 November, the Saeima will discuss the healthcare funding legislative draft developed to improve funding for healthcare and the sector’s longevity.

Healthcare Ministry’s developed draft states that 4% of GDP will be allocated for healthcare in 2020.

Full article here

TRUTH: Bojārs on Diena: «What are you writing there? Lembergs called, cursing and tearing»

«What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing,» said former chief editor of Diena Guntis Bojārs, recalling something Viesturs Koziols once said to him.

During a meeting of the parliamentary investigative committee on 27 November, Bojārs said that Aivars Lembergs, Ainārs Šlesers and Andris Šķēle all had a go at manipulating public opinions. He said: «Viesturs Koziols, who owned Diena newspaper shares, called me once to his office and said: ‘What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing’.»

Andrejs Judins asked Bojārs: «My question is this – were there any attempts and desire to manipulate public opinions? How effective that was is a different story.»

Full article here

GROWTH: Reizniece-Ozola applies for Eurogroup president’s post

Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola has officially applied for the post of president of Eurogroup, as confirmed by the minister.

The minister submitted her application and motivation letter today. Names of all applicants will be published on 1 December. The vote will take place on Monday, 4 December.

Reizniece-Ozola says she decided to become a candidate because during talks with colleagues from other countries she heard many compliments to Latvia as an example for compliance with fiscal discipline. Also the finance minister is confident that representation in such an important institution would improve Baltic States’ representation on Europe’s political map.

Finance Minister says there are many challenges ahead in the finance field. This includes matters associated with economic and monetary union. «There is a lot left to do,» added Reizniece-Ozola.

She refrained from predicting the possible election results. The minister admits that the decision will likely be made by the largest parties represented in the European Parliament – European People’s Party and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Full article here

DECLINE: Some politicians involved in ‘oligarchs case’ remain active in Latvia’s political life

«Having worked intensely with materials of the oligarchs case, I have come to the conclusion that rumours about state capture attempts in Latvia are true. KNAB has created a very large case that includes materials that confirm suspicions about illegal acts, and also points to intentional abuse of official power by certain politicians,» Saeima deputy Andrejs Judins comments the situation.

The deputy says that it has been found out in the ongoing investigation that not all people whose activities who hold important information were interviewed by KNAB. Investigators did not use all opportunities available to them to gain evidence. State capture is not a term included in the Criminal Law. Nevertheless, it is associated with certain activities that are punishable by law.

He also adds that publication of certain documents does align with public interests. «This case is not just about what happened six years ago – it is also associated with modern state administration,» says Judins.

Full article here

OPINION: democracy cannot exist if the majority stays silent

«76 years ago this day marked one of the biggest tragedies in Latvia’s history, when Jewish residents in Latvia were mass-executed in Rumbula. In commemoration of victims, we must make sure something like that never happens again,» says member of European Parliament Artis Pabriks.

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Minister: Latvia and Croatia have absolute understanding on EU multi-year budget matter

Latvia and Croatia have an absolute understanding when it comes to European Union’s multi-year budget, said Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs after his meeting with Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić.

Shocking tendency: narcotics consumption on a rise among youngsters

Crimes involving illegal turnover of psychotropic substances comprised 5.9% of all crimes registered in Latvia in 2017. There is also a worrying trend observed – use of narcotics is on a rise among youngsters, as reported by Latvia’s State Revenue Service during a press-conference on Friday, 25 May.

NATO member states propose exchanging information more actively

NATO member states should exchange information more quickly and more actively to remain ahead of Russia, said NATO intelligence head Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven.

Study: Riga residents remain dissatisfied with house management

Nearly every second Riga resident is dissatisfied with the quality of house management service quality, according to results of a recent study performed by Latvijas namsaimnieks on residents’ satisfaction with apartment building management in the capital.

Dutch and Australian governments believe Russia responsible for MH17 tragedy, say Netherlands

Over the crash of the Malaysian passenger airline in Ukraine that took the lives of 298 people, the Dutch government has stated on Friday, May 25, that it together with Australia holds Russia rosponsible for what they saw as its downing with a missile.

Finance Ministry: growth observed for general budget revenue in Q1

In the first four months of 2018, Latvia’s general budget revenue had exceeded expenditures, forming a surplus of EUR 239.9 million, which is EUR 69.2 million more when compared to the same period of last year. A surplus formed for the state consolidated budget (EUR 160.1 million) and municipal consolidated budget (EUR 79.9 million), as reported by Finance Ministry.

Irish voters at ballot boxes in abortion referendum

Ireland's abortion referendum is taking place on Friday, May 25, as the mostly Catholic nation is asked if they wish for a strict ban on abortion to be upheld. Canadian-British news agency Reuters reported on Friday, May 25, that according to opinion polls Irish voters are set to overturn one of the world’s strictest prohibitons on pregnancy terminations. Voters in the once conservatively Catholic nation will be asked if they wish to lift a prohibition that was written in the constitution by a popular vote in 1983, and eased in 2013 for cases, where the mother’s life is in danger. As to the protection of «traditional» family values Ireland, allowed divorce by a small majority only in 1995, but three years ago became the first country in the world to adopt gay marriage by a referendum.

Police in Kuldiga confiscate 3.3 million illegal cigarettes; shut down illegal alcohol production to boot

Kuldiga Country State Police have arrested one person on suspicion of illegal excise goods turnover and have confiscated more than 3.3 million illegal cigarettes, which is the largest volume police in Kuldiga have arrested so far. In addition, authorities have also shut down illegal vodka production, as confirmed by State Police.

Flats built in Tallinn, construction volume in Estonia up by 21%

Construction companies in Estonia have in the first three months of 2018 expanded their production by 21%, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Latvian Healthcare Ministry promises to improve chronic patients’ care

To improve chronic patient care, Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry has developed a project of rules that will govern the order in which the state pays for medical treatment of chronic, cancer and cardio-vascular diseases in medical institutions.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be hot; air temperature may reach +28° C

This week’s Saturday and Sunday will be hot in Latvia. Aside from summer-like weather, this also means increased possibility of fires, as reported by Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Sweden recognises sex without active agreeing rape

Sweden has passed a new law saying that sex without consent is rape, even when there are no threats or force involved, stating that passivity is not a sign of agreeing to sex.

EU member states begin enforcing General Data Protection Regulation

Starting with Friday, 15 May, all European Union member states start enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation, which provides stricter requirements for personal data processing.

Pyongyang after U.S. refusal still willing to enter negotiations

Pyongyang has stated that North Korea was still ready to engage in talks at any time in any form after U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly cancelled his meeting with the head of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

Lithuania moves forward with tax and pension reform

The heavily amended bills on taxes and pensions will have a significant impact on the Lithuanian citizens’ lives if Seimas, the country’s legislature, approves for them in their current form.

Riga City Council decides not to discuss matter of anti-corruption measures in Rīgas satiksme

Failing to reach a consensus on whether or not the matter regarding anti-corruption measures in Rīgas satiksme should be viewed behind closed doors, Riga City Council’s Security, Public Order and Corruption Prevention Committee decided to postpone its review.

Latvian companies in Vietnam to be provided with stable tax payment regime

Latvian businesses working in Vietnam are to be provided with a stable tax-payment regime that will not be subject to amendments of Vietnam’s regulations.

Saeima conceptually supports law amendments to reduce PIT debt formation

On Thursday, 24 May, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Personal Income Tax Law that were proposed to reduce the possibility of PIT debt after application of differentiated non-taxable minimum or progressive rate on income, explains Saeima press-service.

Minister: unemployment is no longer Latvia’s main challenge

Latvia’s main challenge is no longer unemployment, rather the lack of qualified work force, said Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs at the opening of «Employment in Latvia yesterday, today and tomorrow» conference.

MH17 investigators: plane downed by Russian military unit

Dutch prosecutors, who are investigating the tragic crash of the Malaysian passenger plane that fell down in eastern Ukraine in 2014 taking the lives of 298 people, have stated that it has been downed by a missile released by a unit of the Russian Armed Forces.

Latvian Saeima gives green light to improve anti-doping regulation

On Thursday, 24 May, Latvia’s Saeima supported amendments to the Sports Law that provide for improving anti-doping regulation in the country and improve the autonomy of the anti-doping organization through the establishment of Latvian Anti-Doping Bureau, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Lithuania to host summit of women political leaders

Lithuania and its President Dalia Grybauskaitė will host the 2018 summit of the forum of Women Political Leaders, which is to take place in Vilnius from June 6 to 8.

Green energy becomes more and more attractive for Latvian residents

As technologies continue developing, the use of green energy gradually becomes more and more attractive to Latvian residents. The majority of respondents note that they may start using biomass, solar batteries and even wind turbines in the next ten years, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s latest Latvian Barometer.

Tartu railway routes operating again, system recovery from fire worth millions

In Estonia, railway traffic around the second city of Tartu interrupted last week by a cable fire has been restored with a temporary solution. To fully restore the automatic system, Estonian Railways estimate, millions of euros could be spent.

Committee chairman: municipalities’ involvement in state re-emigration policy is vital

«It is necessary to establish local governments’ responsibility in the country’s general re-emigration policy, because their role is vital. It is also important to involve the private sector. Re-emigration is not just a responsibility for regional coordinators; it is also a complex venture in which we should divide responsibility,» says chairman of Saeima’s Citizenship Committee Ritvars Jansons.

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